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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Tuesday 23 April 2019

The Traitors

Don't panic, I haven't become a social media troll! This is the title of a book by Josh Ireland who looks at four British traitors in World War Two.

The most infamous is William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw. I didn't know that he was born in the USA before his family moved back to Ireland. He was a leading member of Moseley's BUF before falling out with them and starting his own fascist party. He headed for Germany just before war broke out and joined Goebbels propaganda ministry making his broadcasts.

John Amery was another British fascist, the son of Tory Cabinet Minister, Leo Amery. This made him a very useful propaganda asset, although he was a weak radio performer. He spent the war giving speeches and continuing his playboy lifestyle, this time financed by the Nazis.

Unlike the first two traitors, Harold Cole was from a working-class background. He was a small-time criminal who was left behind in France during the 1940 campaign, after stealing from the sergeant's mess. He escaped from his PoW camp and helped the resistance until they caught him embezzling funds. He fled to the Nazis and worked for them for the rest of the war, betraying many resistance networks.

Eric Pleasants joined the merchant marine on the outbreak of war and was captured in the Channel Islands. Bored with internment, he joined the Waffen SS, British Free Corps. After abandoning that unit he was placed in an SS punishment camp and ended up giving exhibition boxing bouts in the German officer mess. After escaping he was captured by the Russians in 1945 and spent seven years in a savage Arctic gulag.

All these traitors got their comeuppance. Joyce and Amery were hanged in Britain and Cole was shot trying to escape the French police. Pleasants was repatriated in 1952 and the authorities decided he had been punished enough in the gulag.

The author threads the stories together into a very readable book. The motivations of each traitor are different, but they all come across as inadequate and chaotic individuals. If there is a common thread, it is booze! You won't find much original research here and the subject has been extensively covered before. However, it has a modern style which will introduce the story to a new audience.

Some Very British Civil War, BUF 28mm figures are probably the nearest I can get to some wargame interest!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post - I think I read a novel based around the story of Harry Cole - in which the basic facts were woven into a slightly different narrative, making him into a quasi "Flashmanesque" figure....